Archive for September, 2009

September 30, 2009

Electric Proms loses some of its lustre

The Electric Proms emerged in 2006 with a varied and refreshing ideology. The BBC’s task was to produce a new and interesting spin on a somewhat overcrowded live music market.  With a series of concerts staged in the London Borough of Camden – highlighting the incredibly contrasting and historic venues of the famous North London melting pot, it combined both the alternative underbelly of the music industry as well as the grand gestures of the music hierarchy.   Art rock via Battles, the jazz stylings of the Basquit strings through to the classic cockney troubadour – Ray Davies. All genres were represented under an umbrella of youthful and innovative vigour – presented through the multi-platform expertise of our beloved national broadcaster.   The first three years seemed to follow a similar mandate – even Liverpool joined in on the act last year – to celebrate their European Cultural Capital accolade.

All of which makes this year seem a bit of an anticlimax.   Gone is the multi-venue, multi-platform broadcasting.   This year the Roundhouse will be the solo host to acts that have already had their fair share of publicity -including Dizzee Rascal and Florence and the Machine.   Sure the grand statement is represented well by the classic performers of Shirley Bassey and Smokey Robinson, but where is the youthful edge and innovation that the Electric Proms so greatly promised in its inaugural years.   Giving such valuable airtime to comeback kid Robbie Williams while ignoring a plethora of talented young bands hardly encourages creativity, let alone offers fair and proportionate representation for the license fee.

September 3, 2009

Radiohead fly the flag of exellence at the Reading Festival

Among all the talking points at this year’s Reading festival – including Kings of Leon’s self destructive set, sound problems on the main stage and the surprise appearance of super group ‘Them Crooked Vultures’ it was business as usual for art rockers Radiohead.  In what was a true masterclass in visual and sonic performance the Oxford band produced an epic display to overwhelm the Sunday night crowd.

The band were more relaxed than ever with Yorke greeting the crowd with a ‘Wassup’ before launching into their seminal single, but rarely played ‘Creep’.  A statement of intent which went into hyper-drive during their next song – ‘The National Anthem’ – a powerfully muscular and menacing groove which exploded off the stage in glorious 3D effects.  Much of Radiohead’s ethereal music was wonderfully embellished with their new cylinder – fluorescent lighting – and fragmented screens – the first time UK fans had witnessed the innovative and mesmerising stage effects in full darkness. 

The 2 hour set mixed the whole gamut of the Radiohead back catalogue with each album getting a fair representation.  A large chunk of ‘In Rainbows’ was beautifully recreated during  the middle of the set, highlighting the core elements of mood and texture as Radiohead specialities – many of their best songs tonight were more recent offerings  – There There, Weird Fishes and You and Whose Army – all spiralling tension and sonic layering.

This headlining moment felt like a high point for Radiohead.  A summation of everything that they’d achieved – woven and textualized into a beautiful display of timing, poise and power.   The virtuosity and variation of the band is beyond equal.